-By Brian J Pape, AIA, LEED-AP
““The appetizing aroma of chocolate that is being melted pervades the factory of the Kopper Company at 18 Waverly Place, where candies in the European style are manufactured for sale in retail stores in many sections of the country. The confections, with which we first became acquainted at Altman’s, are of twenty varieties that the firm used to make in Germany before its establishment in this country in 1938”” (Jane Holt, New York Times, 8 May 1944).
Kopper’’s Chocolate Specialty Co. was first listed in the New York telephone directory in 1938, when they were located at 225 Greene St. in Soho. Kopper’s was founded in 1937 by Fred “Pappi” Stern (1895-1970) , who fled Nazi Germany with his family, and a partner, David Kopper (1895-1962). In 1939, the firm moved to more spacious quarters at 18 Waverly Place near Broadway and NYU, where the company grew and prospered.
When this partnership dissolved, somehow they allowed the company to continue with Kopper’s name, even though by the early 1940s, David Kopper had his own separate business, D. Kopper, Bonbonnière, producing hand-molded chocolates at 217 W. 80th St. in Manhattan.
With success came the need for more space, so in 1980, they moved to 39 Clarkson Street (circa 1920) in the West Village, just north of Houston Street. Stern’s daughter, Lorie married Harold Ludwig Alexander (1923-1997), who was considered as one of the most dynamic and creative chocolatiers in the world during his years working with his wife at Kopper’s. Later, Lorie and Harold’s children, Leslye Alexander and Jeff Alexander, continued Stern’s tradition of using the highest-quality ingredients, old-world sophistication and attention to detail when making more than 300 delicious chocolate varieties.
“All of Kopper’s candies—- including Amaretto Cordials, Rainbow Raisins, French Mints, Creme de Menthe Cordials, Candy Coated Almonds and Punch Crunch—- are made by “‘’panning’”’ inside a revolving drum. The resulting “dragees” (pronounced “dra-zshay”) are encased in plastic or sold loose, destined for the glass bins of candy shops where a clerk will scoop up a pound or two as ordered”” (Betsy Wade, New York Times, 15 Nov. 1987).
18 Waverly Place has been purchased by NYU and now serves its Torch Club facilities, but has, from all appearances, been faithfully preserved in its original character.
39 Clarkson Street, the six-story, 30,000-square-foot home to Kopper’s, was sold to Penn South Capital, an investment firm, for $27 million in 2019, after Kopper’s moved out. Less than two years after purchasing the property, a buyer approached Penn South Capital with an all-cash deal that closed in 30 days, on Sept. 9, 2021. Penn South Capital sold this office building for $45.9 million to this a group of foreign investors from the Middle East doing business as Vanquish LLC.
Ossea, LLC has leased their space to operate a full-service restaurant in the bottom three floors of the newly renovated 39 Clarkson Street, including cellar (4624 sq. ft.), first floor (4803 sq. ft.) and second floor (4803 sq. ft.), roughly 14,230 sq. ft. in total, for a total patron capacity of 102 seats; there are also plans to have sidewalk café seating. Besides a full liquor license, they will be serving seafare by a well-known Michelin-starred chef, aided by a general manager with extensive experience in the hospitality industry.
Today, Kopper’s is owned by the family-run Nuts.com, located in Cranford, New Jersey. Kopper’s still upholds all of its traditions and continues to create delicious gourmet treats, but the Village no longer carries their appetizing aroma of chocolate.
Brian J. Pape is a citizen architect in private practice, serving on the Manhattan District 2 Community Board Landmarks Committee and Quality of Life Committee (speaking solely in a personal, and not an official capacity), Co-chair of the American Institute of Architects NY Design for Aging Committee, is a member of AIANY Historic Buildings and Housing Committees, is LEED-AP “Green” certified, and is a journalist specializing in architecture subjects.